Tuesday, March 13, 2018

10th BIFFES 2018

A lot of things need to align for me to attend BIFFES. The last time I attended was in 2012.  I still remember watching Amour, Pieta and Certified Copy that year, running from one cinema to another. I got pass for it in 2013 as well but could not attend. The reason I write about the pass is because getting a pass for BIFFES itself requires a day of effort.  This year, instead of screening in December, it was shifted to Feb end and with just enough luck, I was able to steal a weekend to catch it.

Day 0 - Getting pass for BIFFES required traveling to Yeshwanthpur will photo ids, two photographs etc. It took 4 hrs of time largely me working from cab to get passes for Kanishka and myself. No photos were needed as they have printed the card based on our online application. Other than the distance part, the process was quite smooth.

BIFFES festival was a week long festival but we decided to spend only the weekend there. All screenings were done at PVR Orion mall, Yeshwanthpur. To optimize the distance, we decided to book a room at Malleshwaram and atleast have a good night sleep.

Day 1 -
I had done the research on which film to watch at what time slot. There were 10 screening going on in parallel. One could watch five films on a given day. Festival opened at 10 am. We reached early on to grab the best seats (recliner seats on first row). Our first flick was Five Fingers of Marseilles

Five Fingers of Marseilles https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/five_fingers_for_marseilles/
Rating - 4/5
The Audi 10 of Orion has a nice widescreen, perfect for FFM. FFM is a South African film in which a group of friends come together to clean their small town from a local landlord. It is a classic retelling of a western genre with slow narrative and excellent cast.  This served a perfect start to BIFFES

Yellow Heat  - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6679498/
Rating - 2.5/5
Having won multiple awards at Moscow international film festival and Istanbul film festival, I had high hopes from this Turkish flick. But turned out to be a tad slow for my taste and a lack of cinematic touch such as background score, perhaps this was done to make it more raw and true. Yellow Heat is a movie of struggle and ambitions - a farmer and his family struggle to make ends meet as they are under debts. Farmer's son wants become a truck driver and is willing to break the traditional rules to get extra money to pursue his ambitions.  The movie does a good job in establishing the canvas of farmers distress and lure of getting out.

After Yellow Heat, we had meant to catch Call me Thief but the queue for the film was so long that we could not make it. Instead we went to another Moscow film fest winner - Crested Ibis

Crested Ibis - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt7084980/
Rating - 3/5
The winner of best film at Moscow international film festival, Crested Ibis, is a drama about friend relationships with an angle of environmental pollution. Shot in black and white, the film raises important questions on how it is ok that cities are polluted but how it is frowned upon when same pollution happens in villages. A traditional village funeral, a color shot showcasing the village beauty are highlights of this film. While the black and white choice was intended to remove the beauty bias, the blandness extends its influence to the overall film as well.

After Crested Ibis, we had wished to see On Body and Soul, an oscar nominee, but after waiting in a queue for 40 mins, the movie could not be screened due to technical reasons. Forced, we had to look for a substitute and ended up in Directions, and boy! what a delight

Directions - https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/directions_2017/
Rating 5/5
A taxi driver in Bulgaria shoots a banker as the banker now wants twice the bribe amount as was originally demanded for the taxi driver's loan. It is an act of rage and soon after the taxi driver shoots himself. We then follow six other taxi drivers picking up rides in Bulgarian as the radio discusses this case. Each of the taxi driver has the radio on where the RJ is allowing listeners to tune in and share their sentiments about this episode. What follows is the study of a country, how systemic corruption corrodes the belief system, how its citizens are loosing hope, some even planning to flee the country. The radio participants mostly empathize with the taxi driver who shot the banker, some even going to say that he should be given a medal. The rides of each of the taxi driver are captivating with very crisp writing. This is a must watch and the reason why BIFFES throws a surprise beyond expectation.

On the Beach at night alone - https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/on_the_beach_at_night_alone/
Rating - 0.5/5
One of the very few films in my life that I had walked out off. There is a non-existent story with some cliched dialogues and a slow pace makes it an incredibly dull movie to watch. Almost painful when you have seen 4 films since morning.

Day 2
Spending the night at a nearby hotel was a good idea instead of traveling back to HSR. To top it, we had breakfast at Veena stores - #1 Idli place in bangalore :) We wanted to begin Day 2 with a film that was tried and tested. The debacle of On The Beach at Night Alone was little too much. We started with the Russian retrospective sample at BIFFES with the 1997 classic Brother

Brother - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118767/
Rating - 4.5/5
A typical yet not so typical crime genre film made with a lot of heart and some amazing music to go along with it. An ex-army kid goes to Leningrad to help his brother with the crime business. The process from a nobody to take over the local crime lord is shown in great detail. The kid is also infatuated with the soundtrack of Wings by Nautilius, at a time when CDs are the new craze in the market. Brother is a learning exercise on storytelling. Highly recommended.

Four Hands - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6047482/
Rating - 3/5
Twin sisters had witnessed their parents being murdered in front of them when they were kids. Twenty years later, the murderers are coming out of prison and this throws their life in turmoil. Troubled and anxious, they get into an accident where one of them is killed. The other one suddenly develops split personality and tries to track down the killers. It is a reasonable attempt in the genre of split personality thrillers. Very well polished with the texture of camera being bleak and darkish, it is a decent film.

The Square - https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_square_2017/
Rating - 5/5
Winner at Cannes, Square is not a film but a sequence of episodes each dealing with concepts of humanity and empathy. Set at an art museum, where a new exhibit called Square is being prepared to open up, The Square is a sanctuary where anyone who is inside the square can ask for something and for others who are outside, if they can capable to help this person, must help. You enter The Square with the idea that you trust your fellow humans. With this, Ostlund, of Force Majeure fame, takes a satirical take on the world of art museums, advertising in the clickbait age, and on hypocrisy of the individuals participating in it. It goes to the extreme when a person suffering from Tourette's syndrome says curse words in a interview pushing everyone to their limits of tolerance. But there is one never ending sequence where in human being pretending to be animal invades a high class dinner and starts to attack people there. It is a very troubling scene as it showcases that no one stand to help others until it reaches a limit. The Square definitely pushes the boundary of cinema and is extraordinary in its ambition.

Loveless - https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/loveless_2018/
Rating - 4/5
Loveless is another Oscar foreign language nominee that deals with the lives of a couple after their kid goes missing. It is a nuanced study of modern relationships and where it is heading. The couple in loveless is heading for a divorce where in both husband and wife have got future partners.  It is very likely that the kid has run to escape this difficult process. The entire drama unfolds as various attempts to find the kid take place. We learn about the background of the parents, and of their future partners. Part of the appeal of this film is it acts as a mirror on us becoming loveless in our instgram driven lives. It could have been similar to Anurag Kashyap's Ugly but Loveless wants to delve more into the human pathos or the lack of it.

We could have watched a fifth film on Day 2, but we deliberately said NO to take some rest before the week begins. Frankly, both Square and Loveless took its toll. Finally we left after taking a quick selfie :)

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